Review: Leopold FC660C

I appear to cross paths with Leopold products frequently.  I’ve had a FC210TP numpad for a while, I’ve reviewed the FC750R and loved it, and here I am in the Topre life with a FC660C.  There’s a decent chance I’ll be in for an FC980M/C at some point as well, since that old Cherry G80 layout is possibly an end-game work layout for me.

Luckily, Leopold is a pretty damn good brand, and the FC660C is honestly the pinnacle of that goodness.

THE BOARD

img_20161208_105900
FC660C, modded with Novatouch stems and Hypersphere rings, with blank black PBT caps from a FC660M, and a red ESC from Elitekeyboards.com

It shouldn’t surprise anybody that a Leopold board feels sturdy and well-made.  The FC660C is no exception.  Despite it’s demure size, I’m rather sure I could beat someone to death with this board.  I would never do such a thing (murder, nor ruin a wonderful keyboard), but the point stands.  Solid plastic shell (and I love the texture on it; resists fingerprints), sturdy flip-out feet, well-placed and quality rubber pads to keep the board in place.  All what you would expect, and it coalesces into a very substantial-feeling piece of hardware.

The DIP switches are of typical fare; Ctrl/CapsLock swap, Win/LAlt swap, Win/Fn swap, Lockout Win key.  It would have been nice to have had some more typical DIP switch functionality (or heaven forbid, full customization, but I digress), but what’s there is the necessary stuff, which is fine.

The keycaps, like most Topre boards, are phenomenal.  The font is readable and inoffensive, the PBT is smooth with the slightest bit of texture, and the dye-sublimated legends are pristine.  Really hard to ask much more.  Of course, I’ve Novatouched and silenced this board, so those Topre caps are now in a bag.  Great caps though.

img_20161208_105843-1

 

The overall feel is excellent.  Sort of a sturdier version of the HHKB, which is to be expected considering the boards being very similar, save for the difference in case-vs-plate mounting.  Long typing sessions are easy and enjoyable, and that’s a testament to not just the Topre mechanism but also the quality of this board.

The layout is the main reason one would be curious in the FC660C, though.  Many would say the HHKB has the better overall typing feel, and I actually agree (though I do feel the difference is very small, at least to me).  However, those all-important arrow keys are present on the FC660C, and they are a major reason I purchased this board.  If a dedicated arrow cluster means nothing to you, then by all means get the HHKB.  I use them far too much to relegate them to the function layer, and that’s my personal taste.

Overall the layout is rather fantastic, though.  Fn+Arrows give you PgUp/PgDn/Home/End, which seems so obvious it should be a part of every keyboard ever.  While a dedicated Insert key seems like a rather niche feature, I can’t say a dedicated Delete isn’t welcome.  The other function layer keys are in the same positions as the HHKB which is fine because those were good positions anyways.

One complaint is a common one with 60-70% keyboards; the Esc “thing.”  Most manufacturers put the tilde key on the function layer, under Esc.  However, they also allow Shift+Esc to yield a tilde as well; this annoys me greatly, because it then prevents the use of the Ctrl+Shift+Esc Windows shortcut (which opens Task Manager, and that’s very useful).  Not a huge problem (especially in Windows 8/10, where Win+X brings up that awesome poweruser menu), but it’s a consistent annoyance that isn’t unique to this keyboard or Leopold.

Another is the lack of volume and media controls.  I’m not sure which is more annoying; the lack of controls or the small amount of work it would have taken to add them.  You wouldn’t even have to add them to the keycaps if you didn’t want to; no one would have complained (at least I wouldn’t have).  Again, this isn’t unique to this board or Leopold, but I still think it’s a glaring omission that bears mentioning, even if many boards and manufacturers are guilty.

Luckily, AutoHotKey can fix these layout/mapping issues.

To sum it up: this is a fantastic board, and a wonderful representative of Topre quality and good craftsmanship.  It’s not for everyone, as many will prefer the TKL (or full-size) layout of a RealForce or the pure minimalism of an HHKB.  But for those who like the minimalism plus arrow keys, it’s hard to go wrong with the Leopold FC660C.

img_20161208_105832

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Some Observations on the HHKB Pro2

This will not be a full-blown review; there are enough of those from people with better perspective and writing skills than I.  This will simply be some observations made while I had an HHKB Pro2, and hopefully someone can glean some meaning from it.

Yeah, I said had an HHKB Pro2.  I don’t have it anymore.  No, it wasn’t stolen.  No, it isn’t broken.  I sent it back.

First, some context on my keyboard purchases and preferences so far:

Purchased boards and their outcomes:

  • SteelSeries 6GV2 (Cherry Reds) – ended up thinking reds were “flimsy,” board was sacrificed to the “learn to desolder/solder” gods (and most importantly, learned that I absolutely hate doing it)
  • Pok3r (Cherry Blues) – used for a long while, loved it, sold a while ago because I actually don’t care for the aluminum case and I swung over to a desire for TKL layouts
  • Leopold FC750R (Cherry Blues) – used for a while, loved it, currently selling because I’ve swung away from TKL layouts
  • CoolerMaster Novatouch (Topre 45G) – First Topre, used for a while, still using it, love it except for the rattle, haven’t decided whether I want to mod it with landing pads or sacrifice it to another Topre board for the MX sliders
  • TADA68 (Gateron Blues) – Love the layout, love the customization ability, will probably be my go-to for home use (gaming, primarily)

Other boards I’ve tested or otherwise experienced:

  • KUL Es-87 (clears, great board, sort of liked clears but not enough)
  • Filco Majestouch 2 (browns, excellent board, don’t like browns, too light/not enough bump)
  • Pok3rs with other switches (browns, see above, and greens, too heavy)
  • RealForce 55g (Phenomenal, but a bit too heavy for what I use Topre for, which is extended periods of typing)

So, my typing needs and preferences can be summed up like so:

  • I adore both tactile and aural feedback, which is why MX Blues have long been a strong preference of mine.
  • Topre is definitely my preference for long-term typing.
  • At least with MX Blues, I prefer plastic cases to aluminum; something to do with the sound of it.  Very hard to describe.
  • My work needs are to be comfortable typing for long periods.
  • My gaming needs are largely unknown, aside form the fact that I don’t like Topre for it.  It would be fine, but not my preference.
  • I still don’t really know my preferred layout.

OK, with that out of the way, here’s my primary impression of the HHKB Pro2:

It’s the best typing experience I’ve had, so far.

That sounds crazy coming from a guy who sent it back, but while I was thoroughly enjoying the layout and the typing experience in general, I found that I just cannot live without a dedicated arrow cluster.

Key foibles with this include the following, for me:

  • Hitting Up to re-run previous command line inputs
  • Using Ctrl+arrows and Ctrl+Shift+arrows to quickly move the cursor or highlight chunks of words

I thought just using the Fn-layer with the arrow cluster would be fine; I was wrong.  In this light, I should update my preferences to include “must have arrow cluster.”  I didn’t know; now I do.

So, here’s my “review”:

The HHKB Pro2 is among the best typing experiences available.  It is a unique brand of Topre, which is already a unique experience to start with.  It is super comfortable for long typing sessions, and while its layout involves some drastic changes, the right person can reap the rewards of what is a phenomenal board.  It doesn’t look like a $225 board at first glance, but it certainly feels like one.

It’s just not for me.

Slightly related news: I have a Leopold FC660C on order.  Review will occur.

Review and Programming Tutorial: TADA68

ROUND ONE: THE REVIEWING

Sometimes, it’s not about the best.  Sometimes, it’s about value.  That’s what the TADA68 brings in spades, more than anything else.  While there are absolutely great things about this keyboard, the most impressive is the fact that I only paid just under $102 USD for it after shipping.  It is a board with no real weaknesses, and that’s not an easy thing to achieve in a hobby with a community that is hyper-obsessive and critical (and rightfully so; we pay a lot of money for this stuff!).

First: there’s already been a great typing demo done by ManOfInterests that shows off the sounds of the TADA68 with Gateron Blue switches.  Mine has Blues as well, so I can’t offer anything besides a convenient link to the video, here.

Second: this keyboard was produced and distributed by OriginativeCo, and is sold on their new kbdist.com (or, “keyboardist”) site.  While I believe the price for the TADA68 has risen a bit from when I bought it (I threw money at my monitor the moment it was announced and available), that’s where you can find it, among other awesome things.

Third: I am in no way affiliated with OriginativeCo, kbdist.com, any of their suppliers, or anyone associated.  I was also not compelled nor compensated to write this review or tutorial.  I am simply another keyboard-obsessive hyper-nerd who has enough free time to do this.

Fourth: A tiny bit of background; I’ve owned a good number of keyboards, but this is my first 65%.  I have owned a Pok3r, which is likely the closest to this form factor.  I’ve mainly dealt in TKLs, but I’ve long wanted to try out a 65-75% form factor, and I jumped at the TADA68 considering the price and the perceived value.

Fifth: Pictures were taken with a Nexus 6, and I am not a photographer.  If you tell me I took crappy pictures, I won’t care.

Okay.  To the unboxing!

IMG_20160831_133202
BLING

I would have never expected any level of bling, but there it is, gold embossing on the lettering.  Keep it classy, Originative.

IMG_20160831_133309
basic.

There it is; that’s all in the box.  Keyboard.  Cable.  That’s all that’s really needed here, to be honest.

(Note for the curious: that’s the bottom of a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro laptop on the left, and the corner of a Leopold FC750R on the right.)

Now: glamour shots!

I figured I wouldn’t take too many pictures; there’s plenty out there already.  It’s exactly as advertised: black plastic case, off-white/beige PBT keycaps, black USB cable, backlighting, side underlighting.

(Note for the curious: backlighting pictures were taken at my home desk instead of at work, the blue/black cable was from Massdrop a few months ago, and the artisan is a HKP Trooper that I won from them on Reddit a while back, which looks great with the backlighting.)

Also, I figured I wouldn’t do any keyboard science, because Reddit user pyrolovesmoney already did some in his review.

Impressions!

  • The legend alignment on a couple of my keys (G and J to be exact) appears a little low; I don’t really care too much, but something to look out for.  Otherwise, the caps are stellar.  Not the absolute greatest, but very good.
  • This is my first experience with Gateron Blues, and I love love love them.  I love Cherry Blues as well, and these feel like everyone says they do; just a tiny bit smoother.  And yes, I hate my co-workers, so they get the clack attack.
  • I think I might like plastic cases more than aluminum.  I had a Pok3r, and while it was fantastic, with Blue switches I find I like the extra resonance and echo from the clacking you get with a plastic case.  So strange what we find good and bad.
  • The board is quite sturdy overall.  There’s the slightest of flex with the case if you use both hands, but it’s certainly of quality, and will likely stand the test of time.  Everything feels good with the steel mounting plate, and there’s no flex or give at all while typing.
  • The backlighting is wonderful.  There’s tiny bits of bleed-through, but nothing drastic.  The side-lights are barely noticeable unless you look at them, but are still a nice touch.  I was pleasantly surprised at a good amount of brightness and even breathing settings for the lights.  Obviously not super-programmable like a Ducky RGB or anything, but nice in the dark (which is the real use for backlights).
  • The programmability is obviously a huge feature.  I’ll get to that a little later, but the main point here is that it’s fully programmable, and the process is rather simple (once figured out, haha).

So, here’s the verdict: it’s a tremendous value.  Very nice PBT caps, steel mounting plate, a solid plastic case, full programmability, and Gateron switches for the price is a steal.  Chip in a few more bucks and you get dye-sublimated legends on the keys and some pretty backlights.  You also get a form factor which is a good compromise between 60% and TKL; I can’t live without arrows either sometimes.

The only negatives I could find with this board are as follows:

  • The aforementioned issue with the G and J legends.  I haven’t seen this elsewhere, so it’s likely not an issue everywhere.
  • No extra keycaps isn’t a big deal, but I would be overjoyed if Originative offered some degree of extra caps in the future (if only to fit with common customization, such as Ctrl/CapsLock switch, CapsLock-to-Fn, Backspace/Backslash switch, etc), even if they cost extra or whatever.  This is an extreme nitpick, but worth mentioning.
  • Programming issues, which I’ll go into more detail below, but to rattle off the cliffnotes here:
    • The instructions for programming in the online manual are not complete.  Also, the file name for the manual is “TATA-68-Manual-1.pdf”.  Haha, ta-tas.  Blergh.
    • The page for the online configurator is a direct IP address, which makes me wonder whose computer in a basement it’s being hosted on.
    • The page for the online configurator is in Japanese Chinese (though Google Translate takes care of most of this).
    • The online configurator uses Flash (BLEHHHHHHHHH).

None of the above critiques are major demerits to the TADA68’s overall value.  It’s a great board at a fantastic price.  It’s also a wonderful intro to smaller form factors for those who are wary of 60%; you still get arrows!

ROUND TWO: THE PROGRAMMING

So, the only real issue with the TADA68 is the adventure you must go on when reprogramming it.  It’s not hard, but the instructions in the online manual are incomplete, and the configurator page is in Japanese Chinese.  These are easy hurdles to clear, and I’ll help you through them.  Obviously, if OriginativeCo/KBDist revise this, I’ll remove this portion, as they’ll have fixed the problem.

First: the online manual.  It’s just a PDF reviewing the base keymappings, and a guide on how to reprogram.  That part looks like this:

Tadaprogramming
man, that IP address makes me nervous.

The issue is in step 5; it doesn’t tell you how to reach the old one. to replace it.  But wait!  Maybe the configurator page tells you how!

config1.PNG
garbledina.

Oh boy.  OK.  So, if you’re using Google Chrome, just right-click on that page and hit “Translate to English”.  If you’re not using Google Chrome, start using Google Chrome.  Also, see that drop-down on the bottom right?  Change that to “English.”

config2

OK, it’s not perfect, but you can make enough sense of it to figure it out.  At least I did.  And if you can’t, I’ll spell it out for you!

  • Use the Flash applet (uuuggghhh) to customize your layout; this is pretty straight-forward.  Click the key you want to change, then click the function you want to map.  One hiccup: I went to set CapsLock as a Fn key, and it brought up another sub-menu, and that wasn’t translated to English (pictured below).  I picked the second option, then chose layer 1, and that seemed to work.  If you’re mapping multiple layers or want to do stranger things, godspeed.
config3
wtf.
  • Once you’re done with your mappings, hit that big green “Compiler” button.  It’ll prompt to save a file called FLASH.BIN.  I didn’t rename it; I don’t know what happens if you do.  But save it and it’ll download to your default download folder (which is probably downloads, unless you’re a weirdo).
  • Here’s where it gets unclear, but based on my rough translation of Japanese Chinese-to-almost-English above, it’s simple and it goes like this:
    • Press button on the bottom of the board; if you turn it over, it’s on the right side, or under the left side if the board’s right-side up.  This will cause the backlights to start flashing.
    • NOTE: THE KEYBOARD IS UNUSABLE AT THIS POINT.
    • Find your FLASH.BIN file that you downloaded and copy it.
    • You may have noticed that when you pushed the button, a new drive will have connected to your PC; that’s the TADA68’s storage.  If you open it, there’s a FLASH.BIN file in there.  Oh.
    • Great idea, thanks to anonymous commenter: create a copy of the original FLASH.BIN file so you’ll always have a copy, just in case.
    • Delete that file.  Paste your new FLASH.BIN file in its place.
      • (Note: if you just try to paste over it, you’ll get a warning that there isn’t enough space for the file operation.  You have to delete it.  I made the leap of faith, you can too.)
    • Press the ESC key; this will restart the TADA68 (literally takes a second), and your new mappings should be live.

See?  Very simple, but the included instructions weren’t sufficient.  Hopefully that gets fixed eventually.

Now, just for shits and/or giggles, here’s the default layouts, then my layouts for those who are curious:

DEFAULTS

defaultTADA
default layer 0
defaultTADA1
default layer 1

MINE

Layer0
my layer 0
Layer 1
my layer 1

My changelog, from defaults:

  • Layer 0
    • Changed Esc/~ to just Esc (having Esc/~ messes with my ability to use the Ctrl-Shift-Esc shortcut, which is the default shortcut for Windows Task Manager, which I use on an hourly basis at work)
    • Changed CapsLock to Fn (Layer 1)
  • Layer 1
    • Changed LEDDown, LEDUp, LEDPower to Fn+,./ (seems more natural to put them towards the edge of the 1u keys)
    • Added arrow cluster as Fn+ijkl (never decided whether I like Fn+wasd or Fn+ijkl better for arrows, will probably change the loser to mouse controls)
    • Changed Home and End to Fn+PgUpPgDn (seems more natural)
    • Replaced mouse controls with media controls
    • Added an extra play/pause as Fn+f (so I can easily reach pause while gaming)
    • Changed volume controls to Fn+zxc (this make mute eminently reachable)
    • Changed Insert to Fn+Del
    • Added Pause/Break as Fn+` (I like this because Win+PauseBrk is the Windows shortcut for the System Information window, and I use that a bunch)
    • Added PrtScr as Fn+p (just in case I need it)

(Edit: corrected original language; configurator page is in Chinese, not Japanese.  Props to Reddit user Spidelytwang for letting me know!)

Running Diary – Trying Topre Again

So I got a CoolerMaster Novatouch  TKL again; I procured one a while back, but only kept it for a couple days.  It didn’t impress me much then, so I returned it and tried other boards until I decided on a Leopold FC750R w/MX blue switches.

Blues have been my favorites thus far, with Clears being intriguing and Zealios (62g is all I’ve tried) seeming nice (my experience limited to a poorly/partially assembled Clueboard that I’ll finish up someday, maybe).  But the Topre thing still sat in the back of my mind, especially considering that I kept reading things like “you have to give it a couple weeks.”

So, I’m giving it a couple weeks.  This will be a two-week running diary as I try Topre again.  This won’t be posted until I’ve made some sort of verdict.  That might be two days, two weeks, or two months.  We’ll see.

Here’s the board, along with my workspace:

IMG_20160504_154439

Some notes on my situation:

  • That’s a Cooler Master Novatouch TKL, purchased from a Redditor on /r/mechmarket.  The keycaps are a bi-color Vortex PBT set.
  • That numpad is a Leopold FC210TP with Cherry MX Blue switches.
  • That mouse is a Logitech MX Anywhere 2.
  • This is being used at work, where I am an IT consultant.  I do a large amount of typing as I am in an account management role, alongside being a systems engineer.
  • I still have the Leopold FC750R at home, which will still provide a contrast (it has the same keycaps on it as well, so that won’t be a factor).  Whenever I refer to “the Leopold,” it’s to that.  It has Cherry MX Blues, and it’s wonderful.
  • I also have had a Pok3r (that I’m selling very soon!), it’s also Cherry MX Blues.  So if I refer to a Pok3r, that’s what that is.
  • My strategy is this: with having different boards in different spots, eventually I will prefer one, and I’ll know because I’ll look forward to typing on the one I prefer.

So, here we go:

Day 1 (5/3/2016)

  • Got it around 11am.  Notified the seller that it arrived, checked it all out; everything looks great.
  • It feels like I remember it; a bit mushier than what I’m used to with the Cherry Blues, but not necessarily bad.
  • Man, including a braided USB cable is super cool, but giving it that 90-degree on the micro-USB end is super not cool.
  • I think a key reason I like Cherry Blues, specifically on that Leopold, is the sound.  All the snapping and popping.  Additionally, the hard plastic case of the Leopold gives it just a bit of a hollow reverb to all the clacking that’s delicious to my ear.
  • The Novatouch isn’t near as noisy, and I’m not sure I actually enjoy the “thock” of Topre.  Not sure if I’m just not used to it, or if it’s an actual preference.
  • One of my best friends who thinks I’m crazy with this keyboard thing tried out the Novatouch for a minute and almost felt in love.  He has a SteelSeries 6GV2 for gaming use (Cherry Reds) and that’s it; I think I just sold him a Novatouch without trying to.

Day 2

  • Banged out a lot of documentation today; I can absolutely say that Topre is better for long typing sessions.  I never experienced much fatigue on my Leopold or Pok3r, but there would be some on some of my longer sessions, because I bottom out like crazy.  I’ve been banging away on this thing all day and my fingers feel fine.  Great, even.
  • I don’t dislike the sound of Topre, I think I just really love the sound of plastic-cased Cherry Blues (and to a further extent, buckling springs).  However, once the headphones are in and I can’t hear it anyways, the Topre feels are starting to grow on me.
  • I typed some on my Leopold at home tonight; still nice.

Day 3

  • I looked forward to the Novatouch today.  Not sure if it’s because of newness or legitimate preference yet, but it is what it is.
  • There’s very small moments where I like the sound, even knowing that it’s a bit noisy with a Novatouch (when compared to the “finer” Topre boards).
  • Typed at night on the Leopold; one thing is for sure, I don’t think I’ll stop liking Cherry MX Blues.

Day 4

  • Switched DSA caps onto the Novatouch.  I think I like it more now.  I didn’t care for DSA caps on the Pok3r or Leopold, but strangely they feel much better on the Novatouch.  Not entirely sure why.  Might be some strange sort of confirmation bias or something, but I do like them.
  • Banged out more documentation and correspondence today.  No fatigue.  No perceived dip in typing speed (I might even be faster).  Comfortable.  This could be bad.

Day 5

  • Took it home for the weekend; haven’t typed on it much, but it immediately replaced the Leopold as the keyboard in front of my main desktop PC.
  • DSA still seeming really nice.  I was planning on selling some of the DSA caps I have, but that might change.  We’ll see.
  • Current picture below.  Pardon the mix-and-match caps; the DSA caps I have were purchased for the Pok3r, so I don’t have enough of either of the color schemes I have to fill out a TKL properly.  Also, pardon the poor light in my “office.”

IMG_20160507_190955

  • FYI, the DSA sets I have are: 60% base set in blue (BDJ, pictured above), standard modifiers set of Think Different (also pictured above), 60% base set in white (WAN, blanks), a 60% modifiers set in black (NEM, blanks), and a Numpad set in black (NEM, blanks).

Day 6

  • Banged out a blog entry.  I think it’s equally shocking that I’m liking Topre, and that I’ve come around on DSA profile keycaps.  This is a good thing; I love the way DSA looks and feels, but when I tried it before I just felt that the caps being lower made typing just a tiny bit more difficult.  It just feels…less so with the Novatouch.  Weird.

Day 7

  • Another day at work where typing up proposals and emails was phenomenal.  I figured out a better layout using the DSA caps that I had:

IMG_20160510_125326

 

  • Now I’m at home typing things up on the Leopold, and I realized that since I brought the Novatouch home over the weekend, this is the first I’ve typed on it in a while.  I still like MX Blues.  I don’t know which I like better.  This feels like a great problem to have.
  • One thing I dislike about the Novatouch: lack of LED indicators.  Would be real nice if there were indicators for CapsLock, the WindowsLock feature, and I guess ScrollLock.  Not a huge deal, but it’s one thing I definitely miss.
  • Another thing I dislike about the Novatouch: the case has this smoothish coating on the plastic that makes it a fingerprint magnet, which will annoy me to no end.  If I end up keeping this Novatouch, in addition to the silencing mod I’ll be painting or wrapping the case.
  • Full disclosure: I absolutely looked at other Topre boards on online stores today.  Oi.

Day 8

  • I can’t get over the fact that I like both of these typing experiences even though they’re completely different.
  • One random bonus: for whatever reason, it sounds like I type superhumanly fast to people over the phone; I think the lower pitch and chatter of the Novatouch (which I would eliminate with the silencing mod if I keep this board) contributes.  Still cool to hear “whoa, is that you typing?  yeesh” over the phone.

Day 9

  • I almost decided to work from home today.  Then I thought that I wouldn’t be able to type on the Novatouch if I did that.  I’m not saying it was the reason I ended up at the office, but I will certainly concede that it was reason.
  • I probably need some sort of psychiatric help at this point.
  • I might be planning a RealForce purchase.
  • I am sick.

Day 10

  • More of the same wonderful-ness at work today.
  • I did a substantial amount of typing at home with the Leopold, and my taste for MX Blues hasn’t changed; I still like them a lot.
  • While my heart may be desiring other Topre boards now, I don’t think it’s “sell all the MX boards” time either.  Maybe I just like everything.
  • OK, so I will have to sell something.  I can’t just keep buying keyboards.
  • Wait, maybe I can.
  • Oh boy.

Day 11

  • Because I’m indecisive and silly, I changed keycaps again.  Pardon the dustiness:

IMG_20160513_104353

  • Those are the stock PBT keycaps from my Leopold FC750R.  They’re beauts, and they feel great with the Topre feels.
  • I think everything might feel great with Topre.
  • I think Topre might be great.
  • RIP wallet.

Day 12 & 13

  • Didn’t do much typing these two days; just had lots of life stuff that didn’t involve typing.

Day 14

  • Final verdict on the Novatouch, as a board: it’s above-average build quality is acceptable for the price point.  Obviously the MX sliders on Topre switches are the main attraction, but it’s not the greatest specimen of keyboard engineering.  But it’s also not terrible.
    • Letter grade on overall quality that’s probably arbitrary and silly: C+
    • Negatives: finger-print-magnet case, moderate rattle with case and larger keys, strangely right-angled USB cable, lack of any status LEDs (CapsLock, etc)
    • Positives: braided cable, wire keypuller, great typing experience, lack of visible branding, sturdy despite rattle, ability to customize keys with Topre
  • As for a review of Topre, my two weeks is up and I think I’ve made a clear decision: while I absolutely enjoy Cherry MX Blues, I think Topre is right there as something I enjoy.  Specifically, I think I always want a Topre board for work, as extended typing sessions are pointedly more pleasant.
  • I am planning a RealForce purchase, though a FC660C might sway me.  No HHKB for me; the form factor just isn’t compatible with my needs.
  • I am keeping this NovaTouch, at least for now.  I need a good DSA set for it though.
  • My wallet, as always, weeps gently.

No One Fucking Thinks Anymore And It’s Driving Me Crazy

It takes all I can muster to not be an insufferable cunt on Facebook every day.  If I had less self-discipline, I would comment on every single fucking social/political meme that had 4 brain cell’s worth of thought put into it, which was then reposted a million times by people who agreed with a premise they refused to research or verify.  I would comment on every single fucking one with facts and analysis to show them how dumb they were for sharing an idea or statement that is fundamentally flawed with only 10 minutes of Google-Fu.

And it wouldn’t do a damn thing.

No one wants to know anything, and that’s the problem.  They want their feelings formed into a bullet point, and that’s good enough.  Fuck reading, fuck research, fuck fact-checking, fuck verification.  Someone took two minutes captioning a picture, so it can’t be all wrong, right?

This happened today:

Someone who I thought was smarter than they actually are reposted the following on their Facebook feed:

dumb

Hey, that’s not a bad point at first blush.  If I pretend like I only have a few hundred brain cells, I could probably conjure some rage and follow that up with “Yeah, how dare they!”

First: should risking your life be the only path to affordable higher education?

Second: tuition has increased at least 1,000% over the last 30-50 years (depending on who you ask), and that’s with adjustment for inflation.  So yeah, I guess risking your life does seem like a good fucking idea now.

Third: Note that the veteran in the picture is white; not surprisingly, that makes it more accurate.  There is a long history of minorities, specifically African-Americans, getting a shaft of some sort or another regarding their G.I. Bill benefits.

Fourth: Like many veteran’s benefits, the G.I. Bill has received numerous cuts in recent years.

Fifth: This meme distorts the overall message of the outcries from millennial/GenX young people who are often identified as the people “whining” and “complaining” about “life.”  The overall message is that they were sold a bill of goods (work hard, be smart, have a house and family and dog and comfortable life) that hasn’t been delivered upon.  Costs for everything are higher today than they were only 20 years ago, let alone 40 (adjusted for inflation, of course).  Hard work can still get you places, but not the same places it got your parents, or your parent’s parents.  Most people who are “crying” about getting their student loans forgiven are mad because they paid more for college and got far less than their parents (and their parent’s entire generation) did.

I spent maybe 10 minutes searching all that information up.  I’m not a genius.  But I am now more informed than what feels like half the people in America.  I’m not special, so that makes things even sadder.

The worst part of this is that the righteous indignation that people spew along with their opinions, opinions that have been poorly (if at all) researched, or opinions that they got from a fucking meme.  The person I know on Facebook probably posted that with an internal “yeah, those lazy fucks!”  Not only have they internalized a really weak opinion, but they have paired it with the entitled condescension of someone who you would have thought would have done a search or used their brain.  In reality, all they did was nod at a picture and click “share.”

This isn’t just obnoxious, this is deleterious to society, and has spread like wildfire.  Many, many people just don’t research for themselves.  They take the spoonfuls of information they’re willing to eat, and accepting that it is right.  It is reducing our culture to that of bullet points and sound bites.  I know this  is happening because Donald Fucking Trump is going to win a nomination for President Of The Fucking United States while treating every debate like it’s a wrestling promo.  He has provided zero detail on his plans, only surface-level proclamations, yet there are people hailing him a savior.

I don’t have a solution for this.  I can’t understand it.  The way I’m wired, if I read something that I’m not sure of, I go and research it.  I can accept that not everyone is like me.  But isn’t it good to, y’know, know things?  Isn’t it good to make sure you’re right before you call someone lazy, or worthless, or wrong?  Isn’t it good to base your arguments on things like facts instead of emotions or fucking memes?

Just fucking burn it to the ground, we wouldn’t notice anyways.

My Second D&D Experience

My first D&D experience was confusing at times, but solid.  While the openness and free-form play can be daunting at times, it’s clearly a unique experience that I feel everyone should at least try.  There really is nothing else like it.

I was DM again, which I’m OK with for the moment, though I desperately want to play a character soon.  This time it was with Pathfinder rules (available at a gigantic discount from the Humble Bundle people for another three days…jump on it, it’s a huge value!), which weren’t terribly different from 5th edition, at least in the very small frame of reference I have.  However, it was with a different group of people, with a different level of experience and dedication.  Two of the other players had actually created back stories, and all three players had known each other very well, which boosted interaction greatly and made things much looser overall.

(Note: this isn’t slighting the first group, but really, the four of us that played last night have been friends for a very, very long time.  Hard to stack up to that level of familiarity.)

We rolled new characters instead of using pre-generated ones, but did use the beginner dungeon to get our feet wet. Luckily the documentation made my job as DM pretty simple, which allowed me to be creative and relaxed while corralling the adventure as best I could.  Everything was pretty great, and here it truly showed how awesome D&D could be.

I kind of resent myself for taking this long to try and experience it.

Anyways, we surely messed up some of the rules (I think combat math is still going to take some time to remember every time), and we didn’t quite finish the entire adventure as we had to call it around 2AM.  However, it’s an experience we will surely continue, and I hope to write more about it when we do.

I just realized this sounds like a love letter to not just D&D, but the friends I played it with last night.  I suppose it is.

My New Favorite Podcast: The Dollop

Dollop-logo
Two of my major obsessions are comedy and history.  I’m a huge fan of stand-up comedy, to a point where I follow and cheer for comedians not unlike how some cheer for sports teams or political candidates.  On the other side, history probably would have been my major if I had completed college, and that’s probably a good thing that I didn’t, because having a history major usually means you have a lot of student loan debt without a matching career to justify it.

Anyways, The Dollop is a bi-weekly podcast hosted by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds, two excellent stand-up comedians who explore weird parts of American history.  The format is simple: Dave reads while Gareth reacts, though they will often go on tangents where they act out possible situations in the story they’re telling.  The end result is informative and hilarious.  I love it to pieces.

The true genius here is that there is an endless supply of material to mine.  They confine themselves to American history, but there are so many weird things that have happened in America’s relatively short history that there should be no end in sight for what they could do.  And even if they do run out, I don’t think anyone would fault them if they expanded their net to include the rest of the world.

Above all else, even if you don’t think the idea of a history/comedy podcast is a good one, you should listen to what is so far my favorite installment of The Dollop, The Rube.  I won’t spoil anything, but it is one of the most ridiculous sports figures in the history of all mankind, who I sadly had never heard of before I listen to Dave and Gareth.  The Rube is now my favorite baseball player of all time, full stop.

Anyways, do yourself a favor and give them a listen.  You’ll learn a thing or three, and laugh while doing so.  It’s typically difficult to get me to full-gut laugh these days, but these guys manage it on a bi-weekly basis.